Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Al Berman Floating Wilderness

Al Berman has a lofty goal with his debut album, Floating Wilderness. The liner notes read "I want to write a song that makes you feel like it could be the last track you ever hear". This is a bold task for such a young artist and the results are mixed. Essentially, Berman has crafted a breakup album most relatable to those experiencing their first "lost love" and its accompanying loneliness, while longing for the great times they once shared. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, the album is well paced for this subject matter with concise, albeit, well-worn themes. Album opener "Run away" is about setting out to sea with a girl. Good choice for track one seeing the theme of meeting a mysterious girl is recurring on this album. What redeems this track and many on the album from a bombardment of clichéd metaphors , however is the soulful voice, accomplished instrumentation and quality production. Creative bass lines, solid harmonies and nice piano work are abound which equate to fine musicianship. Berman is clearly a talented musician and this album has a high production value. However the "singsong" style of "Run away" is a precursor of a tendency to craft overly wordy verses which emphasize the writers point in a hurried way and therefore detract from the instrumentation and the overall message of the song. A similar problem occurs in other tracks such as "Hot Air Balloon", "Reminded of you" and "Floating wilderness". As a listener, I was waiting for a bridge or a hook in the chorus during several of these tracks but it never came. In terms of lyrics, Berman relies on a lot of "Creative Writing 101" clichéd couplets, for example "lounging on the side of the moon, honey maybe it’s too soon, when i’m with you I feel like it’s June" from "Hot Air Baloon (Ragtime Girl)" and "Your eyes glow like diamonds and your body is the rain since the day you left here your name’s played in my brain" from "Reminded of you". Also apparent are the forced use of rhymes, for example "we could go sailing in the deep blue sea , mumbling incomprehensibly holdin hands and shootin the breeze". Upon repeated listens, these aspects tend to detract from the meaning Berman is trying to get across. On the other hand, I was intrigued by the imagery of "The Ballad Of Crotchety Powns","Lune", which was my favorite track on the album, and the straight ahead theme of "I Wanna Party". Berman will surely grow as a writer with more life experience and I look forward to expanding themes in his writing. What stood out for me on this album upon first listen however was the singer’s voice. Berman has a vocal quality similar to Adam Green, E , and They Might Be Giants with an interesting, slightly nasal tone that I found really fit these tracks well and combined with the accomplished musicians on this album, made it a comfortable, albeit not entirely intriguing listen. Berman has a way to go before he can claim his lofty song writing goals but I feel he is heading in the right direction.

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